Real-Time in Retail – Using Data to Transform the Shopping Experience


The way we shop is rapidly evolving. Contactless payment, one-click shopping and click and collect have become the norm, with consumers now being much better informed than ever before. To stay competitive, retailers are expected to run highly efficient e-commerce operations alongside traditional bricks and mortar stores – all while managing increasingly demanding customers who expect a seamless experience no matter how, where, or when they shop.

Ease and convenience are everything

The battle to win in retail has never been more competitive. The need to be more agile and move with consumers is key to sustaining business growth. Today, it’s no longer the best brands that win, but those that are the easiest to shop with.

Convenience via proximity used to be the number one reason for why consumers chose a retailer. But with the growth of home and online shopping, convenience is now the ease of the entire purchasing experience. Take Amazon Go as an example – the concept is all around creating a seamless customer experience – no checkouts, no queues, no hassle. The reason that retailers should be fearful of Amazon is apparent – they are using data to drive ease.

Maximising omnichannel analytics

As retail moves at an increasing velocity towards omnichannel, the creation of big data across channels has proliferated. One major supermarket we spoke to explained how it took them six hours to access information collected over the past year. Technology needs to progress along with this data explosion in order to unlock its power.

With massive volumes of data being created from a variety of channels, connectivity and speed become critical. Organizations need to ensure that they can take data feeds from multiple sources, formats and periods, combine this and perform high speed analytics all in one tool. The most valuable insights are provided by being able to see the big picture, and most importantly, have the insight to be able to act upon it. 

Walmart is one example of a retailer that understands the value of accessing all of its data in one place and leveraging it with quick insight. It’s Data Café is able to model, manipulate and visualize over 200 streams of internal and external data in order to make sense of it. This enables teams to see solutions to complex business problems come to life in real-time on the touch screen ‘smart boards’.

However, performing analytics on real-time and historical data, processing queries, delivering results and feeding downstream applications requires an immediacy and agility that is often difficult to achieve. Retailers should use technology that is agnostic and can easily be integrated with these systems, whether that be supply chain management, or a website/ mobile device.

The customer experience

As multi-channel interactions increase, customer expectations of relevance and personalization are also growing.

Unsurprisingly leading retailers are upping their stakes in the technology and data department to create tailored customer journeys. By capturing basic demographic information about shoppers, Mondelez’s smart shelves, for example, are not just able to personalize ads on video displays as customers queue up but also focus these on items they picked up whilst shopping.

Brands now need to engage with customers on a one-on-one level across all channels. Whilst data enables this, speed is the key to delivering the frictionless experience for customers expecting real-time data driven engagement.

Real-time insights for retailers

Access to instant information has become an absolute necessity in today’s data driven landscape. Retailers need to be able to predict what customers will want in the coming hours, days, months and years in a matter of seconds, not hours. To enable this kind of quick and powerful decision making, all data solutions and services must be carried out in real time. Machines and algorithms that predict shopper needs as they happen will be critical, as static models will no longer keep up with the pace of change.

UK supermarket Morrisons leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to increase availability for customers and improve efficiencies by more accurately predicting trading patterns. During the algorithm’s trial gaps on shelves were reduced by 30%, driving customer ease by giving them better access to the products they want.

A foundation of data capability is key to enabling the ease agenda. Retailers have to build on existing infrastructure in crucial areas such as big data and analytics to deliver a seamless shopping experience. Retailers with the most effective infrastructure to collect, store and analyse data in real-time won’t just be able to ensure their survival, but will also drive future business growth as technology evolves. Those that leverage data to deliver an easy and frictionless shopping experience on top of their core brand proposition are the ones that will win.

-Thomas Hill, Senior VP Retail Strategy at Kx




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